Temasek Holdings could see drop in net portfolio value

Temasek Holdings could report a decline in its net portfolio value for the first time since 2009, following a roller-coaster year in the global economy and financial markets.
Temasek Holdings could report a decline in its net portfolio value for the first time since 2009, following a roller-coaster year in the global economy and financial markets. PHOTO: REUTERS

Temasek Holdings could report a decline in its net portfolio value for the first time since 2009, following a roller-coaster year in the global economy and financial markets.

The Singapore investment company is expected to unveil its performance this week for the financial year ended March 31.

Analysts say Temasek's exposure to China, as well as the financial service sector, likely left its portfolio battered by significant headwinds over the year, and also leaves it hard-pressed to replicate its strong performance in previous years.

Last year, Temasek posted record results - its net portfolio value climbed to an all-time high of $266 billion as of March 31, 2015, surging $43 billion over the previous 12 months.

The value of its portfolio had been steadily growing every year since 2009 - when it dipped due to the global financial crisis.

However, this trend is likely to reverse in its latest set of results following a volatile year.

There were multiple stock routs in China over the period and the markets "have not experienced a recovery of any significance", said KGI Fraser Securities trading strategist Nicholas Teo.

China's stock market plummeted last June in a rout that saw indexes plunge by as much as a third.

Shortly after, US$5 trillion (S$6.7 trillion) was wiped off global stock markets over two weeks last August after China's surprise devaluation of the yuan.

At the beginning of this year, another cut in the value of the Chinese currency triggered a plunge in Chinese shares, followed by a tidal wave of losses in global bourses.

Temasek has been steadily increasing its exposure to China, which made up 27 per cent of its portfolio as of last year.

Mr Enrico Soddu, the head of data and research at the Sovereign Wealth Centre in London, said Temasek's portfolio is likely to have declined between 5 per cent and 10 per cent because of its exposure to Chinese markets.

"Temasek is not a sovereign wealth fund but a holding company... so they might have been affected more than other government funds by the slowdown in the China and emerging markets as a whole, considering their overexposure in Asia," he added.

Temasek's exposure to the financial service sector - which made up the bulk of its portfolio at 28 per cent last year - is another factor that likely weighed on portfolio performance, noted IG market strategist Bernard Aw.

In particular, Temasek is the biggest foreign investor in Chinese banks. Soon after the slump in Chinese equities last August, the investment firm raised its stake in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to 10 per cent of the company's Hong Kong- listed shares.

Mr Aw pointed out that the Bloomberg World Diversified Financial Services Index tumbled 17.5 per cent over Temasek's financial year. "Financial services were hammered in the first quarter of 2016," he said.

ICBC's Hong Kong-listed shares, for instance, plunged 25 per cent from HK$5.76 on April 1 last year to HK$4.34 on March 31 this year.

Closer to home, DBS Bank - in which Temasek is the largest shareholder - also saw its share price slide 25 per cent over the same period.

Other Singapore companies in Temasek's portfolio also had a challenging year. The offshore and marine units at Keppel and Sembcorp were hit hard by falling oil prices, and both conglomerates saw share prices plunge at least 30 per cent over Temasek's financial year.

Mr Teo noted that there might be a few bright spots. Lower oil prices likely benefited transportation companies in Temasek's portfolio, such as Singapore Airlines.

Neptune Orient Lines shares also received a fillip over the period on the back of takeover rumours. The company has since been sold to French shipping giant CMA CGM.

Market watchers say the current financial year will be another tough one for Temasek, given the lacklustre global growth outlook and mounting uncertainties.

"The outlook is bleak," said Mr Teo. "Brexit is going to be messy, and the United States presidential election is also coming up. Temasek will have to manage in the face of all these uncertainties."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2016, with the headline 'Temasek could see drop in net portfolio value'. Print Edition | Subscribe